Rolling Out

Brandon T. Jackson on remaining true to his comedy and his community

photo courtesy of NBC
Photo courtesy of NBC

Brandon T. Jackson has been grinding in the comedy game for more than a decade. Jackson’s thriving right now with his stand-up career, movie roles and his co-starring gig on NBC’s new sitcom, “Mr. Robinson.” On the show, Jackson is Brian Robinson, the guitar-playing younger brother to star Craig Robinson’s character. And after so much success on stages and movie screens, Jackson was eager to try his hand at a sitcom.

“We improv a lot and we kind of come off the cuff and throw things back and forth with each other. He’s from Chicago and I’m from Detroit, so we’ve got a certain style of comedy that can reach everybody,” Jackson explains. “People were saying we had a laugh track — that’s a live audience. And it’s a fun show, man.”

Jackson thought about his own childhood, growing up watching sitcoms at a time when they dominated television, in diving into this particular project.

“A lot of people think when I do stuff that they send a script to you and you’re at home and just reading a script — nah, you’ve got to go out and audition,” Jackson explains. “I auditioned for the role and thought it was hilarious. I always wanted to be on a sitcom with that classic feel. Everything is reality now and I’m not hating on it, but I wanted to see if this generation can watch a sitcom. Because I grew up on some of the best sitcoms.”

The Detroit native gained a huge amount of attention starring in blockbusters like 2008’s hit Tropic Thunder alongside superstars like Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and that film gave his career a major boost after he’d already appeared in comedies like This Christmas and Lottery Ticket. Thinking back, he says he had no clue of how big the movie was going to be and while he’s thankful for all that it brought him in his career, he’s also cherished moments where he was able to share the screen with some of the most beloved names in Black comedy.

“I didn’t even know what was going to happen. I didn’t know it was that big when I was doing it,” Jackson explains. “Sometimes it’s blind ignorance and it’s good. Because if you did know, who knows how you would’ve done. But working with Martin Lawrence [on 2011s Big Momma’s House: Like Father, Like Son] was of a big magnitude for me. Whether the movie was good or not, working with a man who’s a legend in our community made sense. As much as I loved being ‘the Black guy in Tropic Thunder,’ working with my fellow brothers is always good, too.”

Jackson has been doing this for more than 15 years now,and though he still looks like a youngster, he’s matured a lot over his career. Now 31 years old and a dad, he says he’s learning how to balance it all.

“Life changed me — having a daughter and growing up,” he says. “It’s not just clubs anymore and irresponsiblity. As much as you want to go out, being a single father, you’ve got a daughter to raise. It’s hard.”

But with his stand-up career, movie career and now hit TV show, Jackson just wants to do good work and move people.

“I love seeing results,” he shares. “The fame and all of that is whatever, but seeing people really feel what I’m saying and what I’m doing. Like that rooftop scene in Lottery Ticket, everybody talks about it. That’s the stuff that matters.”

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